Every so often we like to dip into the ongoing news cycle and present our regular readers with stories that we hope they will find interesting. Typically, these stories involve high profile bed bug sightings that illustrate just how pervasive these parasites can be. This time, however, we have something a little different. This week we look at a current news story that is changing what we know about the evolution of the common bed bug.
It has long been believed that bed bugs first appeared on the scene roughly 40 to 50 million years ago. As parasites their first hosts, and primary source of food, were thought to be bats. However, new research into the DNA of 34 species of bed bug has proven that bed bugs evolved more than 50 million years earlier than their host species of bat, making them twice as old as previously believed.
This puts the earliest appearance of bed bugs into the same time frame as dinosaurs, although researchers are quick to point out that it is unlikely the insects ever fed on a frustrated T-Rex. As they are quick to point out, bed bugs prefer stationary hosts living in nests or burrows. Dinosaurs were primarily roaming creatures and there is no evidence that they ever built or lived in nests or dens.
This new research into the origins of bed bugs sheds a brighter light on their evolutionary development. It would now appear that the earliest species of bed bug co-evolved alongside the first birds and mammals, changing hosts as extinction and evolution demanded until they found the perfect host in human beings.
The latest research into the DNA of bed bugs answers many questions about their early development and subsequent evolution. It’s a fascinating study, and further investigation will no doubt answer even more questions about the origins of these blood-sucking parasites. But for the time being we now know that the lowly bed bug once walked with dinosaurs.